This is continued from Thoughts on Having Kids, Part One.
By the time I got married at age 31, I’d been through so many difficult, painful experiences and been hurt and rejected so many times by so many people that I was almost numb. All that “bursting with love” stuff I’d felt when I was younger was gone. I still wished people well and it wasn’t like I was angry or bitter, but I wasn’t exactly bursting with anything anymore, except perhaps exhaustion, both emotional and physical.
Since the onset of puberty, I’d been having problems with my hormones and my menstrual cycle. I had seen a number of doctors over the years but had never received an official diagnosis. However, when I was 17 one doctor told me that women with problems like mine often have trouble conceiving children after the age of 25. I’m sure throughout my late teens and twenties the memory of that conversation gave me an air of desperation that drove men away and made my already awkward ways with men even worse.
Age 25 came and went.
Meanwhile, I never got any better at interacting with kids, despite lots of experience with them and even an attempt at being a Sunday School teacher, which was an absolute nightmare. The children were completely out of control and I was unable to maintain any sort of order whatsoever.
Finally, the man who would become my husband entered my life. I warned him early in our relationship that I might not be able to conceive children, but being the optimist that he is, he just said, “I’m confident that everything will be okay.”
When we were first married, I was trying to get pregnant, thinking if we were going to have children we had to do it as soon as possible. It’s not that I had a strong desire to be a mother at that point, but I did have the awareness that time was ticking and it was now or never.
Conception never happened. And once our first anniversary had passed, I realized that I felt nothing but relief. Our marriage was good and happy, but our circumstances had brought a whole new level of stress into my life, with having to move across country to where my husband had landed a postdoctoral fellowship, with my ongoing illnesses (as well as the hormonal issues, I had asthma, allergies, bronchitis, dental problems, gastrointestinal issues, hypoglycemia, etc.), with not being able to find a family doctor, with the weather being far more extreme than what I was used to, and with my husband (at that time) not being able to drive and me having to drive him everywhere he needed to go. I was so tired and stressed and sick I was barely able to function. I could not envision having a child to look after when I could barely look after myself.
One day my husband and I were in a supermarket and we heard a child screaming and my husband (who is very sensitive to noise) said, “You know what? I’m glad we don’t have kids.” This opened up the topic for conversation, and the more we talked about it, the more we realized we were both content as we were. But I always told him to tell me immediately if he changed his mind, because if he wanted to be a father I didn’t want to deprive him of that, and if we couldn’t have children naturally I would be open to other options for his sake.
By the time I was 34, we had moved to a new city yet again and managed to get a fantastic new family doctor there. After learning my history and making certain observations, she ran a number of tests. She ended up diagnosing me with hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome. The latter is well known to cause infertility. The former can contribute to infertility if left undiagnosed and untreated for a long time, and in retrospect, I realized I’d had both for many, many years. These diagnoses also at least partially explained my exhaustion.
The doctor told me about my options if I wanted to conceive a child, but upon discussing it with my husband, we came to the conclusion that people should take such measures if they were certain it was something they truly, deeply wanted, but that was not the case for us at that time.
I suppose it didn’t help that we were again living in a rented apartment far from family and friends and that my husband had no job security whatsoever. It would be different if nature had simply taken its course, in which case we would have welcomed a child, been loving parents to him or her, and done our best to provide. But to go to extreme measures to make it happen and bring a child into our insecure situation? That just didn’t feel like the right thing for us or for the (hypothetical) child.
As the years have passed since then, we’ve both become more certain that having children is not for us. I honestly wouldn’t even think about it as a possibility anymore if other people didn’t bring it up. It’s not even something that’s on my radar, so to speak. I don’t feel like anything’s missing. Well, actually, sometimes I do think it would be nice to have an already-grown, adult child at this point (I’m 42), and to have the kind of relationship with someone like the one my parents now have with me. But I could not start with a baby or even an older child now, as could be the case with adoption. My sensory issues are too severe, for one thing, plus I am still so, so tired. And as for a teenager, I’m certain that they would just walk all over me. I simply don’t have an authoritative bone in my body.
Sometimes when I hear the stories of other infertile women, I feel tremendously grateful that I do not suffer emotionally like many of them do. For some women, it’s devastating and a constant source of pain if they can’t conceive. For me, it’s almost a non-issue. I kind of feel like it’s all meant to be. I’m not meant to be a mom, and that’s not only okay, it’s a good thing for me. I’ve also read that some women feel they’re not a real woman if they can’t give birth to children. That’s never even crossed my mind. My identity and self-worth aren’t wrapped up in my gender and I don’t care if I’m a “real woman” or not.
The only hard part about all this is other people’s opinions, which I explain further in my next post.